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NATIONAL PASTIME

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AFL Orioles - Week 6

The Arizona Fall League season came to an end Saturday, and so did the Phoenix Desert Dogs' run of five straight championships.

AFL Orioles - Week 4

Brandon Snyder's outstanding AFL campaign continued as he reached base in more than half his plate appearances.

AFL Orioles - Week 3

The previously red-hot bats of Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder cooled significantly this week, but all four O's pitchers were impressive.

AFL Orioles - Week 2

Orioles fans who happen to peruse the Arizona Fall League statistical leaderboards will notice some familiar names.

AFL Orioles - Week 1

Eight Orioles prospects are looking to sharpen their skills in this year's Arizona Fall League, which kicked off on Oct. 13.

2010 Prospect Preview

The next reinforcements in the national pastime's youth movement have designs on infiltrating big league rosters in 2010.  

Norris knows there's still work ahead

Washington Nationals minor leaguer Derek Norris was flattered when he learned last week that South Atlantic League managers, general managers, sportswriters and broadcasters had selected him as the Most Outstanding Major League Prospect in the 16-team circuit, but the 20-year-old catcher kept it all in perspective. "It's always nice to get an award for something you've worked hard for, but I'm still in low A-ball. I still haven't really proven a whole lot yet," Norris said.

Prospect Q&A - Josh Bell, Orioles

It appears the deadline deal that cost the Orioles their All-Star closer may very well have yielded their third baseman of the future. Josh Bell was four months into his best pro season to date when the Los Angeles Dodgers shipped him to Baltimore along with minor league righty Steven Johnson for George Sherrill on July 30, and the 22-year-old has carried the momentum with him to his new organization. Bell, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound switch-hitter, has slugged five home runs in his first 27 games for the Double-A Bowie.

September 2009 Orioles Prospect Rankings

Top prospect Brian Matusz made an earlier-than-expected arrival in Baltimore in August and picked up his first three big-league victories. Down on the farm, the returns from the George Sherrill trade - third baseman Josh Bell and right-hander Steven Johnson - impressed for Bowie while Matt Hobgood began to flash the form that prompted the Orioles to select him with the fifth overall pick in June. Fellow draftees including second-rounder Mychal Givens and late-round bonus babies Cameron Coffey and Michael Ohlman agreed to terms, adding depth to an already impressive farm system.

Prospect Q&A - Mike Montgomery, Royals

Royals prospect Mike Montgomery became the advanced Class A Carolina League's second-youngest pitcher upon his promotion last month, and the 20-year-old southpaw has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of its best. Montgomery has allowed just eight earned runs total in his first five starts for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and limiting opposing hitters to a .208 batting average in the process. The Royals knew Montgomery was advanced for high school hurler when they made him the 36th overall pick in 2008, but he has exceeded even their wildest expectations by posting a 2.11 ERA in his first 128 pro innings.

The benefits of signing early

With the midnight Monday signing deadline rapidly approaching, Stephen Strasburg - the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft - has yet to agree to terms with the Nationals. The much-hyped San Diego State right-hander has spent his summer crunching numbers with superagent Scott Boras while the Nats' second first-rounder, Stanford closer Drew Storen, has breezed through the lower levels of the minors. Storen entered the draft with much less fanfare than Strasburg but has a great shot of becoming the first member of his draft class to reach the bigs, possibly as soon as September.